The CDC Opens Things Up!

On May 13, the CDC issued a new guidance regarding the COVID-19 precautions that fully vaccinated persons in non-healthcare settings may now follow.
The CDC stated that fully vaccinated people in non-healthcare settings can:

  • Resume activities in any setting without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
  • Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
  • Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
  • Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings, such as if experiencing symptoms or testing positive within the preceding 10 days.
  • Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
  • Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible
  • For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
    • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
    • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations
    • Not visit public or private settings if they have tested positive in the prior 10 days or are experiencing symptoms

You can read the full CDC recommendation here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

As you may recall, late last month our Governor lifted our statewide mask mandate and required that masks be worn on public transit, in state government buildings, schools, and healthcare facilities. Significantly, the Governor stated that “Mask policies in Louisiana will be set by local leaders and business owners.” This, coupled with the CDC’s guidance that masks must be worn if required by “local business and workplace guidance” would seem to indicate that the CDC and Louisiana still require masks if business owners or employers require them.  This probably means that employers should revise their own written policies if they are going to remove the mask mandate. 

Many employers are asking how these new guidances will impact the application of Louisiana’s Limitation of Liability for COVID-19 (LSA-RS 9:2800.25). This statute generally provides that if a person or entity substantially complies with applicable COVID-19 procedures established by applicable federal, state or local agencies, it will not be liable for damages due to exposure to COVID-19 in the operation of its business.

Governor Edward’s April guidance specifically states that “Lifting of the mask mandate does not affect the COVID-19 liability protections that were enacted by the Louisiana Legislature which require businesses and schools to follow the recommendations of state and federal health authorities, all of which recommend continued mask-wearing.”

To confuse the issue further, we can’t forget OSHA. OSHA still has guidance on its website stating that employers should not make distinctions between fully vaccinated employees and those who are not.

Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not: Workers who are vaccinated must continue to follow protective measures, such as wearing a face covering and remaining physically distant, because, at this time, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from person-to-person. The CDC explains that experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

OSHA’s position is a bit dated and in conflict with the CDC’s guidance, but it is still there, at least for now.

So, even though it appears as if our Governor and the CDC have significantly eased their mask requirements, we urge businesses to slow down and exercise caution. It is very likely that state and federal guidance will evolve quickly over the next few weeks, providing employers with some clarity on this issue.

If You Are a Fan of Paid Leave, This Is the Year for You

In his recent address to Congress, President Biden touted two plans that would require employers to provide employees with paid leave.  Here are the highlights:

American Families Plan

You can read the entire Plan summary here. https://www.constangy.com/assets/htmldocuments/American%20Families%20Plan.pdf The section addressing the paid leave provisions can be found on pages 8 and 9.

If the plan passes, when it is fully phased in employees would be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year for several reasons:

  • The employee’s own illness
  • The illness of a family member
  • A new child
  • Military deployment of a family member
  • Treatment for or recovery from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence
  • Bereavement

Sounds a lot like paid FMLA leave to me.  We do not yet know how the AFP will impact the FMLA. 

The Plan is not clear about how much an employee would be paid. Right now, it appears as if employees would receive between 66% and 80% of their average weekly wages, with a maximum of $4,000 per month.

This Plan is likely to cost in excess of $500 Billion over 10 years.

This Plan will almost certainly pass if the Democrats are able to introduce it using the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority to pass the Senate. If they cannot use the budget reconciliation process, it is not as likely to pass in its current form.

Healthy Families Act

The HFA would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide employees with seven days of paid sick leave per year for specific reasons:

  • Physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition
  • Obtaining a diagnosis, care, or preventive care
  • Attendance at required meetings at a school which the employee’s child is attending because of a medical condition or disability
  • Obtaining various types of assistance related to sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence

You can read the entire 48 page Bill here: https://delauro.house.gov/sites/delauro.house.gov/files/documents/HFA%20117.pdf

Employer take away: Neither the American Families Plan nor the Healthy Families Act are yet law, so you do not have to take any immediate action. But, keep an eye out for further updates as they each make their way through the legislative process.  If either of them pass in any form, it will require us to quickly revise our forms and practices.